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Social Network Analysis as a Means of Exploring “Users” (SIG USE)

Anabel Quan Haase, Caroline Haythornthwaite, Julie Hersberger, Catherine Johnson,

Presented at ASIST 2004 Annual Meeting; "Managing and Enhancing Information: Cultures and Conflicts" (ASIST AM 04), Providence, Rhode Island, November 13 - 18, 2004


At the 2003 ASIST Annual Conference, a panel called “Death of the User” suggested that the current state/paradigm of user studies is not sufficiently robust as a framework for studying the dynamics of information use. The panel put forth a few suggestions for future frameworks, among them, one in the communications area that has been receiving some attention in information science lately: social network analysis. The intention of this panel is to (a) continue the dialog begun by the “Death of the User” panel, and to (b) shed light on this means of investigation and how it could be used to better understand how people seek and use information. This method is in contrast to “traditional” user studies in which individual users are usually studied divorced from their social context. Social Network Analysis places the information seeker within his or her social network and seeks to explain how the constraints and opportunities afforded by social networks affect information behavior in individuals’ everyday and professional lives and the flow of communication and information within and across organizations. Panelists will provide insights on the strengths and limitations of using SNA to study human use of information.

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